sliced bread

Upper Room, Jerusalem

The name Elmer Clime does not ring a bell to most of us. In 1921, he invented a brand of extremely soft white bread and called it Wonderbread. He was visiting the International Balloon Race at the Indianapolis Speedway and was awestruck by a sky filled with hundreds of colorful balloons. To Elmer, the image signified a sense of “wonder,” and since that time, the colorful red, blue and yellow balloons have been the cornerstone of Wonder Bread’s logo and package. But change happened seven years later with a new invention: the bread slicer. And from then on, whenever some wonderful gadget comes along, you could hear somebody say, “This is the greatest invention since sliced bread!”

Change happens in a lot of ways at every Mass we participate. The most significant change, though hidden from our sight, is the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is only through the eyes of faith that we see them. There are other changes. The most notable ones are the color of the vestments. We normally use green for Ordinary Time, red for Pentecost, white for the Blessed Mother, Christmas and Easter and violet for Advent and Lent.

Then we have the readings. The Church knows that we easily get bored, so we get the story telling section first. We learn about what happened to our grandfathers in faith, then we hear in the Gospels what Jesus did. After which comes the homily, which for some can become a sermon. The difference between a homily and a sermon is a matter of minutes and delivery. If we like it, we call it a homily. Otherwise, it is a sermon.

It is hard to listen to a homily with all the distractions around. If I can only give you a remote control every time you come to Church and tune out if you do not like what you are hearing, I would. But that is impossible. St. Paul said that we have to preach in season and out of season. Some of the things that we, priests, say may not be relevant to what is happening in your lives right now.

But, just tune in. If you cannot tune in to the homily, listen to the readings. You have come to Church, make the most out of it. What is God telling you this particular weekend? What does He want you to change in your life?

There are other changes, too. Offerings change. And I do not just mean the amount of offering we give every Sunday. It is the gesture that went with the envelope. Not just the gift, but also the thoughts connected with the gift. Those envelopes that we bring, with our numbers on it for tax and school purposes, are not just our offerings. They symbolize something else.

When we give something to the Church, to this community of faith, it means that we belong. We do not just pay our dues or attendance fees, but we also join in this spiritual economy of gifts. Our offerings mean that we are a community, that we belong to a faith community where there is a give and take relationship. When Communism taught that the distribution of goods should be from each according to their ability, to each according to their need, the Catholic Church has proclaimed it from years back that there is nobody so poor that they cannot give, there is nobody so rich that they cannot receive.

Among all the changes that we have, what else do we have? Attitude. We go to Church because we want to encounter our loving God. It is not just an obligation, but also an invitation. Jesus is the Host, literally and figuratively, at every Mass. There are some among us who leave early once they have received Communion. What is five minutes of waiting till the closing song? We all know who left immediately during the Last Supper? It was Judas.

And because we want to encounter God in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, need I say dress for the occasion? It could become an icebox here during the summer, so cover yourselves. Looking your Sunday best is not just a description for the Protestants. It should also be ours.

It is all about an attitude of belonging and welcoming. The sacrament that we share is not a You or a Me. It is an Us. It would be unfortunate for a Church to exist if churchgoers are not welcoming to one another, if we are not being brothers and sisters to each other. It would be unfortunate for a Church to exist if we do not care about each other, if we do not share for each other.

We are blessed to be part of this parish community because we see a lot of caring, sharing and belonging people. Other people have shared with me those experiences when they had a death in their family or they needed somebody to take care of their sick. That is what our initials say. SCB, standing for St. Charles Borromeo, is another word for saying we Share, we Care and We Belong.

The only thing that is permanent is change. With the various changes we experience in life and at Mass, there is something that is changeless in our faith. It is not a thing. It is a person. He is not a What. He is a Who: the Bread of Life, who promised that anyone who comes to Him will never hunger, anyone who believes in Him will never thirst. Jesus is the food that will never perish. He is more than Wonderbread because He is endless. He is more than the greatest invention since sliced bread because He is forever.

2 August 2009

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